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How we grow matters
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Economic growth is the fundamental building block for social prosperity. It enables our communities to flourish, our people to have a better quality of life, and our children to enjoy more opportunities than we had growing up.

But the days of growth for growth's sake, or growth at all costs, are well and truly over.

For much of the last two centuries, economic growth in Australia has been strongly, but far from solely, related to the land - grazing land for wool; gold and iron ore amongst others. This growth, however, did come at a cost to our First Nations people; a cost that for the past two centuries has largely been unrecognised and unvalued.

The early 1800s saw wild swings in standards of living (as measured by real GDP per capita growth), not only because of the volatility of the economic and socio-cultural conditions of the times, but also because of rapid population growth. This placed increasing pressure on even the rudimentary social services available at the time.

In the 70 years to 1900, the longest spell of uninterrupted positive real GDP per capita growth was just 6 years. In contrast, living standards have ratcheted up 3-in-every-4 years during the 20th century. And in our current 21st century, despite the GFC and current COVID pandemic, Australia has enjoyed real GDP economic growth per capita in 18 of the past 20 years.

Drivers of growth

What drove this growth? Simply, the success of industries reliant on natural resources were slowly being supplemented by growth in other industries which employed our increasingly educated workforce, utilised more machinery and technology, and drove output-per-hour-worked higher year-on-year.

The interaction between our educated labour, strong need for foreign capital, and natural endowments is a complex one. For the most part we have handled the challenges well, particularly compared to many other resource-rich countries. We can be proud of how we have opened our borders to others who migrated here in search of a better life. They brought their culture, their skills and their experiences, which have added richness to Australia's capacity and capabilities. However, it took until the late 20th century for any wider cognisance within our society of the inequality of our Indigenous Australians, including recognising "the plight of Aboriginal Australians affects us all"1

By and large, our institutions have supported this growth and as a nation, we've been nimble enough to recognise the need to abolish old ways to enhance our prosperity.

In the 19th century, the termination of convict transportation, limitation of land acquisition by squatters and the abandonment of indentured labour on sugar plantations are some examples. Workplace laws also abolished a very rigid and inefficient labour market and through what was effectively part of a grand bargain, created one of the largest pools of savings per capita in the world through our superannuation system.

1 Redfern Speech (Year for the World's Indigenous People) - Delivered in Redfern Park by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992

Future of growth

These changes were grounded in our sense of fairness and a vision of how we could be a more equitable and prosperous society. Fundamentally they were about how we wanted to grow and who we wanted to be - an important premise when addressing the inequality that rapid growth can bring.

Implicit in the expression 'how we grow matters' is that growth can be good. We should not be seeking to slow down growth; rather we need to promote the right kind of growth.

We need to promote innovation and embrace new technologies. This will be a major source of future growth in productivity and our standard of living. We have a rich and proud history of doing this: penicillin, Wi-Fi, spray-on skin, the bionic ear, and even the electric drill are all Australian inventions.

We need to ensure that everyone in our society shares in the benefits of change. We should also acknowledge that being ahead of the game is a major advantage; and recognise such an advantage requires long-term planning.

COVID-19 continues to challenge us on how we live and work in our cities and the infrastructure we need. Future technology must take a major part in dealing with these issues. In 30 years, it is anticipated Sydney and Melbourne will both have populations of approximately 7.5 million people. Brisbane and Perth will have populations of about 4 million. This is daunting if we simply do things the way we are doing today; but exciting if we imagine how we organise the way we live and work with the benefits of smart technology.

How we design and embrace technology is critical for our future; it should expand our sense of freedom and not limit it, although this is a more complex question than merely increasing choice. We need to take responsibility for all possible uses of what we produce and not merely the intended use. And in doing so, we need to consider the most vulnerable user and those who are disadvantaged by circumstances and change.

Our ever changing world is becoming more connected; what we do, and how we do it has more of a global impact than we previously thought possible. Now more than ever we need to apply our ethical lens, learning from past injustices, in all we do in search of growth.

When this becomes embedded in our business culture, the community will develop a sense of trust and legitimacy for growth and our future; a sense we are fulfilling our obligations to society, seeking good outcomes and achieving the broader purpose we say our businesses stand for.

Good growth is essential for our future prosperity.How you grow matters

Connect with us

  • Dr Brendan Rynne

    Partner, Chief Economist
    KPMG Australia

  • Grant Wardell-Johnson

    Lead Tax Partner, KPMG Economics & Tax Centre
    KPMG Australia


At KPMG, we believe that growth shouldn't come at all costs.

That you can push forward without sending the world backwards.

Our growth should better us all,
beyond today.

That's why we're dedicated to helping our
clients grow — sustainably, collaboratively,
resiliently and compassionately.

Because how you grow matters.

We've helped place a financial value on Tasmania's forests.

We've helped place a financial value on Tasmania's forests

Our natural environment requires valuing in order to protect what matters. That's why KPMG Australia worked with Forico, to assure certain larger value of the forests and landscapes under their management.

A leading natural capital report was prepared by Tasmanian forest custodians, Forico, with KPMG Australia providing limited assurance services. Understanding and valuing the most material ecosystem assets on the 172,328 hectares of managed plantation and natural forest estate, led to Forico conservatively calculating a Net Natural Capital Value of $3.37 billion. This included the value provided to both the business and wider community of CO2 sequestration, erosion prevention, natural habitat conservation, water flows and 10.9 million green metric tonnes of standing timber for use in future renewable wood and paper products. The formation of the report was an Australian first, and will enable Forico to reward sustainable investment, promote improved transparency in reporting, engage the community and share their story of their role in the sustainable management and preservation of Tasmania's forests for the long-term benefit of the communities in which they operate. And, as KPMG is Forico's ongoing natural capital partner, that's just the start of what can be achieved.

  • Allows for a more complete and balanced decision-making process and resource allocation beyond the traditional financial outcomes to also consider the businesses' impacts and dependencies on the environment, society and its people.
  • Inspires others on how they too can start to tell their own story of value preservation and creation.
  • Measures what matters and finds a way to monetarise these important ecosystem services to reward responsible investment in environmental stewardship.
  • Work is currently underway to prepare Forico's FY21 Natural Capital Report with KPMG assurance to continue the journey to expanding into other important measures of natural capital value.
  • A new and emerging field of development in accounting and reporting with limited standardisation, case studies and guidance available to date.
  • Contentious area with many special interest groups and competing agendas.
  • Limited public awareness around natural capital reporting.
  • Urgency and importance to address climate change impacts with credible information and actions.
  • Sustainability
  • Environmentalism & ecosystems
  • Investment
  • Innovation
  • Valuation
Argyle Foods Group

We're growing the ability to track and trace meat in the global food supply, with KPMG Origins.

We're growing the ability to track and trace meat in the global food supply, with KPMG Origins.

Ensuring quality animal and meat traceability data is an increasingly vital part of global food supply chains. KPMG Origins is a blockchain-based platform that is helping do that and more.

KPMG Origins is an easy-to-use blockchain-based traceability platform that allows businesses to track all aspects of their supply chain here and abroad, instantaneously. For meat company Argyle Foods Group, this is transforming their beef exports to a large global retailer in Taiwan. Data is automatically captured from a large array of supply chain databases and IoT devices, including the National Livestock Identification Scheme, to track the movement, growing conditions and quality of their cattle. It's then enriched with meat processing, quality assessments, logistics, export documentation and in-transit IoT data, for real-time temperature and location tracking. The result is greater transparency into the quality of their cattle and beef products, data to validate their 'clean & green' product claims, all while achieving a digitised and automated value chain.

  • KPMG Origins has made it easier to see the information shared between supply chain participants.
  • Automate the data transfer between participants' systems.
  • Full traceability from paddock to shelf.
  • Differentiated AFG's premium product range.
  • Identify opportunities for future growth and value in AFG's supply chain.
  • Data standardisation across value chain participants.
  • International compliance.
  • Sharing data and certifications.
  • Traceability
  • Food supply chains
  • Blockchain
  • IoT Tracking
  • Quality assurance
  • Compliance
She Dreams Big

We're helping young girls grow into tomorrow's leaders.

We're helping young girls grow into tomorrow's leaders.

Gender bias and stereotypes start young. So, KPMG collaborated on an original series of star-studded children's storybooks to help young girls dream big.

'She Dreams Big' is a social enterprise that came to KPMG Australia looking for clarity and guidance. Their intentions are noble - to address gender bias, which research suggests emerges young. Initially combined with a children's bedding offering, we helped structure their business and simplify their proposition – collaborating on a series of storybooks that represent women growing into a variety of leadership roles. From journalists to environmental scientists, each character is supported by a team of technical problem solvers. The books are designed to be read interactively with parents/caregivers and girls, and were launched on International Women's Day with prominent Australian figures including Sandra Sully, Cate Campbell and Lauren Parker.

  • Business structured for future growth and important network connections established.
  • Helping young girls aspire to careers where women are underrepresented.
  • Future instalments to focus on women in sport.
  • Simplifying and establishing the business proposition.
  • Marketing and reaching consumers in a cost-effective manner.
  • Cash flow and budget were key considerations.
  • Gender equality
  • Stereotypes and bias
  • Inclusivity
  • Art and writing

How you grow matters. Grow with us.